Up to this point, I’ve written several posts to build up to my dad’s and my Australian Adventure that you can read here and here. Now, to jump into Australia itself! Our flights to get to the “Land of Oz” went off without a hitch. We even managed to sleep most of the 16 hour leg of the flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, landing us into this stunning town bright and early in the morning! Without losing any time, we dove right into walking the streets of downtown, eventually popping out into sunny Sydney Harbor with its iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge – what a sight! Walking around this city and later taking a guided hike to Manly, a suburb on the outskirts of Sydney, were treats in and of themselves. I couldn’t believe it – my plans were falling right into place!
The following day centered on the Australian Tourism Exchange conference, a huge event in the Australia Tourism Community featuring what we have deemed “speed dating” in the travel world. Fifteen minute meetings with Australian tour operators, hotels, rental agencies, tourism boards, and city attraction representatives throughout the day set our expectations high for building the perfect Austin-Lehman Australia Adventure in 2014. This conference runs for five days straight; however, we only attended one day of the ATE since Tourism Australia decided that visiting Australia’s unique destinations would serve us better with our two week time constraint. I can’t believe how much I learned about Australia’s tourism industry in that long day of meetings; my head is still spinning a month later from those who met with us and promised to help build the ultimate itinerary. Overall, I thought the conference was an impressive affair, well organized and well run – I hope I get to go back again next year!
As promised in the itinerary we received before the trip, we ran a tight schedule with our small group whose members ranged from the United Kingdom to Japan. We were to see pieces of four of the seven “Great Walks of Australia” and everything in between. Mostly our schedule took us down to Tasmania or “Tassie” as the locals call it, an island state south of Australia. Flying into Hobart Tasmania, we began our adventure at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary where we met many of Australia’s nocturnal creatures, like kangaroos, wallabies, sugar gliders, wombats, and the famous Tasmanian Devil, and were introduced to other “creatures” like Stu, our fire wielding, blow torching, BBQ’ing grill master who put on a show for us in cooking a memorable dinner. After a night like this, what else could be in store?
The following days were a blur as we visited places like the secluded Maria Island with its beautifully taken care of Bernacchi House, an accommodation for hikers of the four day Maria Island Walk. Wineglass Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula, one of Trip Advisors’ “Top 10 Rated Beaches of 2012” greeted us with virtually no other tourists to share in its soft, white sandy beaches, still blue waters, and dolphins jumping in the distance. The Bay of Fires met our group with a surprise thunder storm, tossing the waves onto the beach, lightning cracking in the distance, as we made our wonderfully isolated way to the beautiful Bay of Fires Lodge, a sustainably built and run accommodation literally in the middle of nowhere whose deck outcompetes all others in the category of “best location to watch a sunrise.” We ended our tour of Tassie in Launceston in the north to fly back to Melbourne, a city renowned for its food, wine and city lights. A couple hours’ drive from Melbourne brought us to Bothfeet Lodge, set sustainably in the Australian Bush, about midway along the Great Ocean Walk with its high coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, and crashing waves.
After spending a few “rest days” in Melbourne, we flew home and headed into the office, excited to share our trip with all and ready to start narrowing down the possibilities for suggested and separate Australian, Tasmanian, and New Zealand itineraries for 2014. With the help of Tourism Australia, we learned a great deal about Australia, its people, its culture, its beauty, and just how much there is left to learn. Now it’s time to dive into the research and process of building Australian trips and opening up a new continent for Austin-Lehman in the coming year. With the connections we made, knowledge we carried back with us, and excitement we can barely contain for opening up a new region, I know we’ll create an amazing Australian product that ALA travelers can look forward to in the coming year.